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Canadians, including Ryan Reynolds, opening wallets to support Ukraine

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Canadians are opening their wallets to show support for Ukraine amid the Russian invasion, but observers say it pays to do some research before donating.

Multiple organizations have launched emergency relief efforts for Ukraine, from registered charities and nonprofits to crowdfunding for grassroots projects and individual families.

With so many options of where to give, charity industry experts say Canadians should consider a few factors before making donations.

“It’s marvellous to witness the generosity of Canadians,” said Bruce MacDonald, president and CEO of Imagine Canada, an organization that acts like an industry association for charities.

“But it’s a good idea to do a little bit of homework,” he said. “Make sure that your trust barometer feels really good.”

It can be as simple as reviewing an organization’s financial statements or the impact of their programs on their website, he said.

A website like canadahelps.org, which connects charities and donors, can help people find a charitable organization that fits their interests, MacDonald said.

It lists a number of charities, including UNICEF Canada, the Canada-Ukraine Foundation, CARE Canada and Save the Children Canada.

The federal government announced Friday it would match individual donations to the Canadian Red Cross up to $10 million to help bring humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

Red Cross spokesperson MairiAnna Bachynsky said the Red Cross is “always encouraged by the generosity of Canadians and this has been no exception.”

“The Canadian Red Cross is able to work alongside the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement to support to those impacted by this ongoing humanitarian crisis,” she said in an email. “The support provided will address immediate and ongoing relief efforts, long-term recovery, resiliency, and other critical humanitarian activities as needs arise, both in Ukraine and surrounding countries, including those who are displaced.”

Bachynsky was unable to provide a figure on how many donations it had received as part of its Ukraine humanitarian crisis appeal or the amount fundraised so far.

Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds and his wife Blake Lively committed to matching donations to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees up to $1 million.

Kate Bahen, managing director of Charity Intelligence Canada, said while giving to charity is commendable “there is a limited role charities play in full outright war.”

“It’s a much more limited role when you have a full blown military conflict,” she said. “When you go into a war situation, it sort of changes everything. You don’t want to be sending goats.”

Responding to a natural disaster like an earthquake that is over is very different for a charity than a conflict that is still ongoing, Bahen said.

“It’s been three days and we don’t know how long this will go on for,” she said. “We can be a bit more thoughtful.”

Meanwhile, unlike charities, crowdfunding projects have more leeway to fundraise for specific conflict-related needs such as body armour or even weapons.

“I’ve never seen this before,” said Bahen, a veteran of the charity industry.

Yet unlike with registered charities, she said it’s impossible to track the accountability of many of those crowd fundraising initiatives.

Meanwhile, Canada has a rich history of private citizens sponsoring refugees, and some Canadians may opt to pool their support with others to help a family immigrate, Bahen said.

“We can bring displaced Ukrainians into our country through private sponsorship,” she said. “Church groups or book clubs can get together to sponsor a family.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2022.

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